Politics Opinion

Urgent call to halt Migration Amendment Bill 2024

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Protesters outside the office of Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil (Photo by Jane Salmon)

Legislation that unfairly criminalises those seeking asylum highlights problems in the Albanese Government's migration policies, writes Jane Salmon.

IN A CRITICAL FORUM addressing the Migration Legislation (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, Kalyani Inpakumar – representing the Tamil Refugee Council – shed light on the troubling direction of the Albanese Labor Government's migration and refugee policies. The implications of this bill are stark and unsettling.

The Bill, as outlined by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, carries the following concerning provisions:

  • creation of undisclosed travel bans on select countries;
  • imprisonment for at least a year for non-cooperation with removal; and
  • authority for the Immigration Minister to revoke visas of already protected refugees.

It's easy for some, like myself, an eighth or ninth-generation Anglo-Australian citizen, to detach from the Migration Amendment Act 2024's implications. However, the complexity of immigration issues is undeniable. Wars continue to drive people from their homes, yet racism disguises itself as population sustainability. Media often overlooks protests, leaving many feeling tired and frustrated.

So why not succumb to fatalism? Why not ignore the trend towards discrimination, the lumping together of individuals based on nationality or mode of arrival? Why not turn a blind eye to double standards in our “justice” systems, punishing foreigners for their birthplace?

Let's not forget our ancestors' unusual maritime arrivals or the colonial cruelties to convicts and Indigenous Australians while disregarding the rights of newer arrivals. Let's push forward with “Fast Track” policies, punishing tenacity and resilience, urging them to take their problems elsewhere after years of legal battles.

Let's build walls, pretending uniqueness and separateness, giving in to fear of economic downturn and distancing ourselves from human rights. Let's become puppets of faceless bureaucrats and allow High Court cases to trigger false emergencies.

Offshore processing persists and the Immigration Department's processes are a nightmare for those caught in its web. We're stuck in a cycle of scapegoating, sensationalised media and a race to the bottom between political parties.

Yes, the Department of Immigration faces a daunting task. Some exploit the system, claiming protection after initially arriving on student visas. But does that justify indefinite detention and deportation without rehabilitation?

The impending Migration Amendment Bill 2024 is a dangerous step. It paints all seeking protection visas as manipulators of a flawed system. If that were true, most would have given up after 12 gruelling years.

Some politicians act like Santa, granting favours to photogenic families while ignoring the majority in similar situations. It's all arbitrary. Skilled migrants or wealthy investors are favoured, keeping housing markets afloat and private schools well-funded. But what about the rest?

Why should we give up? Because when human rights diminish, so does human authenticity. Widening class divisions harms everyone. The happiest nations are the fairest.

Where you're born is luck. Children shouldn't suffer for their parents' decisions. How much can anyone endure?

This Bill doesn't fix long-standing problems; it papers over past failures and punishes applicants for system gaps. It doesn’t consider those left behind due to legal mishaps or lack of representation.

Why the rush? These problems aren’t new, yet the urgency is manufactured. The only emergency is embarrassment in the High Court. Tough. Let's get a grip.

Our nation's future is at stake. Overlooked children of non-permanent residents seek “a fair go”. These young people, full of potential, deserve better. They're the ones who've persevered, working, studying, and contributing to society without the safety nets full citizens enjoy.

We mustn’t forget the faces behind the policies — like the resilient mother running a business while caring for her son with cerebral palsy, denied NDIS support. Or the young man failed by a lawyer's absence, now uncertain of his future.

Immigration officers can't fully grasp the politics of minority regions in countries they don't have access to. We're aware of death penalties for being gay, but what about unofficial dangers in seemingly tolerant countries?

How do asylum seekers present evidence when their phones are confiscated or destroyed? How do they prove threats when they're fleeing for their lives?

An amnesty for Fast Track victims is crucial. An amnesty for Medevac arrivals won't restart boats; it'll provide justice for those unjustly detained.

The Senate has a chance to make history by rejecting this Bill for redrafting. Australians will thank them for generations if they stand up for compassion, justice and fairness. It's time for a more collaborative approach.

Jane Salmon is a refugee advocate whose family has benefitted greatly from the NDIS. You can follow her on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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